Authenticity is No Laughing Matter

Posted on Oct 3, 2011 in CHI Contemplation
Tags: authenticity, b2b, marketing communications, pr, public relations

Authenticity is a big deal in most business circles. People who know their own business or industry can tell when someone is faking it or does not really “know their stuff” when it comes to products, services and lingo.

In fact, authenticity matters in most endeavors. The notion of authenticity will be put to the test in an upcoming movie titled “The Big Year” starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. The movie is based on a non-fiction book about bird watchers who decide to devote an entire year to seeing as many birds as possible in 365 calendar days and nights. For those who don’t know birding, The Big Year is considered serious stuff. Every opportunity to find a new species is treated with utmost urgency. Birders must be opportunistic, knowledgeable and practical all at once to do a Big Year, deciphering real chances to add to their count list vs. pursuing false leads.

In this regard, birding really is an interesting metaphor for business. Good birders first have to develop a serious knowledge base, using a combination of experience and technology to help them successfully find and identify birds. Just as an employee in sales must learn to qualify opportunities, birders learn to sift through common birds to find rare species. Rare birds are like “big accounts” or prime prospects in business—not easy to find, but often worth the effort.

Good birders work hard to hone their craft. Most assiduously protect their personal brand as well because developing a reputation for misidentified birds can cost you in the birding network. Expert birders quickly learn who to trust by how well other birders do their job. If a fellow birder sends you an email referral for a rare bird and you travel 50 miles to track it down only to find out it was incorrectly identified, you will not likely follow that tip again. Nor would you likely be moved to share a good tip with a birder who has previously steered you wrong.

A solid referral network is particularly valuable when attempting what birders call The Big Year. You must have people you can trust to find 700+ species of birds on the North American continent in a year, or else you wind up wasting your time and missing your goal. It’s not an easy goal.

And that’s where authenticity comes in, and why birders will be watching the upcoming film so closely. Hollywood always seems to play loose with the facts and authenticity in its movies. As signs of authenticity, birders will be checking brands of binoculars, scopes and clothing the birders wear. But mostly they will be checking to see if the birds used in the movie appear in the right kind of habitat, at the right time of day and make the right kinds of calls or songs. Most birders can cite a number of occasions in which they have been watching TV or a film only to hear a common loon––normally a north woods denizen–– making calls in the middle of a desert.
To birders these things matter just as business people distinguish between nuances in their own respective industries.

That doesn’t mean someone can’t learn about your business or industry and contribute to the success of your company. But attention to detail is important in many instances, lest your customers or potential customers sense a lack of authenticity in your messaging.

If you go see the movie “The Big Year,” perhaps you’ll perhaps appreciate the ambition of birders trying to achieve something unique in their lives. Even though it’s a comedy, there is truth and some pathos in the notion of people striving to do something they’ve never done before.

Naturally, birders will be studying “The Big Year” for its authenticity, and measuring the success of the message in the movie by how well it captures the look and feel of real birders. The movie may be a comedy, but to most people, authenticity is no laughing matter.

Christopher Cudworth is corporate marketing officer for Cooper Hong Inc. He has also been a birder and wildlife artist for 30 years, and has a birding life list just over 400 species. In 1998, he found a bird never before reported in the lower 48 states, but the record did not count because there was no one else present to authenticate it. Chris took the photos featured here with his Canon S90 and a Kowa 665 Digital Spotting Scope.

Previous Post:
How Google Works - A Visual
Next Post:
Good Pitching Wins